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Posted: December 29, 2012 2:59 p.m.

Newton Countians win environmental awards

When it comes to keeping Newton County clean and promoting environmental friendliness, there are a handful of local superstars who lead the charge, and a few of them got some extra recognition this year at the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation awards ceremony.Keep Covington-Newton Beautiful volunteer Lee Aldridge won the state's woman of the year volunteer award, while the county's landfill manager James Peters won the Public Works Employee of the Year award and Newton County 4-H took second place in the waste reduction recycling category.

Lee AldridgeAldridge won the Carolyn Crayton Woman of the Year award, a fitting honor for a woman who actually founded the group that eventually became KCNB. Aldridge started  "C.L.E.A.N." an acronym for Clean Living Around Newton, through which she focused on educating the community about the need to keep the environment clean.This year alone, Aldridge completed a laundry list of volunteer efforts, including: coordinating coloring contests on recycling; completing numerous recycling presentations for elementary school students; working at an education booth at the Great American Cleanup; distributing supplies to Service Guild members for home and yard cleanups; collecting toilet tissue and paper towel tubes for school crafts; donating "Water Cycle" posters and seed bookmarks to schools; giving three classroom presentations on Earth Day; talking to a student body assembly at a middle school prior to a school-yard cleanup; donating recycling books to schools; making "Acid Rain" posters for 4-H; collecting 47 glass bottles for science projects; and copying,  assembling and distributing recycling coloring books to give out at Recycling Centers.  

"Lee firmly believes that personal involvement is essential to the growth and prosperity of a community. Her involvement has resulted in a cleaner environment and a more educated society. She dedicates her entire life to others, and our community reaps the benefits," according to a press release. "When asked why she does all of these activities, Lee said, 'I do it because I love it!'"

Aldridge history with KNCB has been long lived as she has been an active member of board of directors for 10 years.  During her first year as a volunteer, she was named the organization's Rookie of the Year for her efforts to help design a lab room in the Recycling Processing Center using recycled carpet, recycled tire flooring, reused lab cabinets from an old school and paint from the community paint recycling event.

James PetersWhile Peters deals with trash and recyclables once they've already gotten to the landfill or recycling center, that hasn't made him any less excited about making the county a more aesthetically-pleasing place.Peters, the county's solid waste director, won the Public Works Employee of the Year award for his improvements at the Newton County landfill.

According to the press release, under Peters' leadership, the local landfill received its highest ever inspection scores from the Environmental Protection Division: 95 for municipal (general) solid waste, and a 100 for the construction and demolition waste. Those scores have continually climbed from scores in the 80s when Peters was hired as a director in 2006.

In addition, recycling revenue has grown from $195,000 to $275,000 a year by researching rates and negotiating with various recycling and manufacturing companies and separating glass by color to increase profit.He also took steps to improve the landfill's appearance including: planting flowers around the landfill sign; litter pick up each day; water trucks cleaning roads each day; mowing grass regularly; designing an employee parking area; erecting a split rail fence along the main roadway; painting the scale house and gate; installing a wash pad; installing an oil/water separator; and constructing a drop-off area for citizens' use.

"It's a part of the job. Just because you work in a landfill doesn't mean it has to look like one. I hope Newton County stays the way it is," Peters told The News. "I feel great. I have been in the garbage business for 19 and a half years, so to receive an award is an honor."He also helped implement and oversees paint recycling and pesticide collection, electronics recycling; clothes collection and donation, bicycle collection and donation and cooking oil collection.

4-HThe final award winner was the Newton County 4-H organization, which has a strong partnership with KCNB.
The groups first started working together when 4-H participated in the annual Great American Cleanup in 2009. Later at an Relay for Life event, 4-Hers noticed lots of aluminum cans and plastic bottles being tossed in the trash; not only weren't being recycled, but the 4-Hers could use those pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House charity project.

Since then, the team's project has grown each year.  They not only collect all the recycling, but also invite Youth Leadership Institute teens to assist with collection and sorting of the recycling during the Relay for Life event, preparing the cans, plastic bottles and trash for appropriate disposal or recycling.  They also learned to put trash bins near the recycling bins to encourage community members to properly sort as well, according to the press release.

Another major reuse project by Newton 4-H'ers is the annual book collection. At the request of a middle school youth, Newton County 4-H began collecting children's books. Members sort, clean and label the books for The Learning Center, a local non-profit focusing on literacy for those under 5 years old.  4-H'ers create a literacy-themed Christmas float each year and personally deliver more than 1,000 books annual into the hands of young children and toddlers. The remaining books are distributed through other local literacy programs.

This year, a youth summit team of four youth and one adult leader formed a plan to also collect used teen and adult books for use by the local library system to raise funds for the library facilities and staff.

In addition, 4-H'ers also collect and donate of printer cartridges to raise money for the local Special Olympics team in honor of a 4-H member competing on the equestrian team, participate in the annual Rivers Alive cleanup, coordinate recycling at schools by 4-H clubs, hosting a SquareCrow competition (scarecrows are made out of recycled materials) on the city square for "4-H & Recycling Week," and make crafts out of recycled materials.

"I grew up in Newton County and was involved with 4-H. I learned that I have a place in this community, and so do the kids," 4-H Coordinator Terri Kimble told The News.

The Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation's mission is to support local Keep Georgia Beautiful affiliates as they build and sustainable communities through litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling, water resource management and community greening.

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